As much as I love old school thrash, i.e. thrash played by bands that were actually around when the subgenre did some serious business back in the 1980s, it’s hard to give the old guard the benefit of the doubt in this day and age.
A lot of this is down to the fact that both labels and bands are often complicit in what can only be called misleading promotional campaigns. A lot of pre-release talk of album X being band Y’s “thrashiest in years” is often just code for “well, it is thrashy in places but overall this is just derivative groove-inflected metal.” See the post-millennium releases of Destruction and Exodus for an example of this annoying phenomenon.
Death Angel certainly haven’t been entirely innocent in this regard, as albums like The Art of Dying and Killing Season didn’t exactly set the world on fire. The brilliant Relentless Retribution was a massive step in the right direction, and the newly released The Dream Calls for Blood is hands down the meanest slab of thrash they’ve released since The Ultra-Violence.
Let’s not mince words here: this IS a thrash album through and through. It’s such a belligerent album, in fact, that I almost ended up giving it a very negative review. The first few listens did nothing for me, and while I appreciated the no holds barred approach taken here I missed the quirkiness that had always characterized their music. Simply put, The Dream Calls for Blood felt like a cold, mechanical and soulless album. Big on heft, low on heart. Perseverance pays off though, and a few additional spins convinced yours truly that this is indeed another triumph for a band that clearly still has a lot of gas left in the tank.
The cover art, which is reminiscent of some of the old Catamenia album covers, already makes it clear that this will be a ferocious affair and opener “Left for Dead” further nails the point home. Sure, the melodies are darker than usual, Mark Osegueda sounds more vitriolic than usual and the playful funk tendencies of yore are all but gone, but that classic Death Angel spirit is still coursing through every song here.
It’s true that the band’s decision to go for the jugular from beginning to end does rob the album of a bit of variety, and it doesn’t have quite as many individual standouts as their previous album, but there are a more than a handful of winners on here. “Territorial Instinct/Bloodlust” has a batch of crunchy mid-paced riffs and a killer melodic break that will have Helstar fans flopping on the floor, while “Fallen” shows excellent balance between vocal harmonies and effective guitars. All in all this is a stellar album that throws down the gauntlet to the thrash scene at large.
(released 15 October, 2013 on Nuclear Blast Records)